Dick Webb has resigned as executive director of the board for the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Industrial Development Authority (HMCIDA).
“I’ve been thinking about this for a few months,” said Webb, who was hired as HMCIDA executive director in 2015. “I’m ready to give up some of my obligations.”
Webb, a graduate of Georgetown College, is a former school administrator, teacher and basketball coach. He served as superintendent at Burgin Independent School for 16 years. Webb is widely credited with turning the school around.
When he hired on at the HMCIDA, Webb said the basic problem in Kentucky was that schools educate students to one standard while industries expect another. As a former educator, he saw his job as largely getting everyone on the same page.
He said he’d learned a lot about economic development during his time with the HMCIDA.
“It’s not about bringing in a McDonald’s, it’s about improving the workforce,” Webb said.
For the past year, he has served as a facilitator for a $150,000 planning grant to establish the 127 Career Academy, which will offer students academic pathways in nursing and industrial maintenance.
Webb has also led in the effort to create an Advanced Manufacturing Center at Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Danville.
Last week, Cody Boone, a Burgin High School graduate who is currently studying at BCTC, led Webb and the HMCIDA board members on a tour. BCTC has raised around $400,000, not quite half of what is needed to build the center. The City of Harrodsburg and the Mercer County Fiscal Court have donated, as have Corning Incorporated and Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas Inc.
While some in the community have complained that the center would be located in Boyle County, Mercer students already make use of it. During the tour, nearly half of the students in one classroom were Hitachi employees.
“Dick has done a lot, not just for the Industrial Development Authority, but the citizens of Mercer County,” said John Trisler, chairman of the board for the HMCIDA. “We’re on the road to improving our workforce.”
Webb had some pointed remarks about education in Kentucky. “In 1990, they said they were going to fix everything,” he said, referring to Kentucky Education Reform Act.
However, 28 years later, the Bluegrass State is the sixth worst state in the nation for the number of people with more than at least a ninth grade education and the third worst for the number of people holding bachelor’s degrees.
“I’m not sure we’ve changed a whole lot,” Webb said. “I think we’ve spent a lot of money and a lot of time on measuring and not a lot on teaching.”
Webb’s resignation is effective March 31. He said he will continue his volunteer work in the community, but said he hadn’t really slowed down since he retired from Burgin in 2014.
“This has been a wonderful job. I would recommend it to anyone,” Webb said. “I’m ready to give retirement a try.”
To learn more, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.